As author of a book documenting the shooting of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a frequent socio-political commentator on issues of local and national importance, I am appalled by the epidemic of violence in political protest sweeping our nation.
Let me make it clear at the outset that I am by no means a fan of our current president. In fact, I strongly oppose both his arrogant un-presidential style and the majority of his domestic policies which overwhelmingly favor his affluent cohorts, together with his foreign policy initiatives. As such, I eagerly await his resignation or impeachment, whichever comes first.
By the same token I am highly disturbed by the increasingly violent anti-Trump rhetoric employing the theme of assassination, often under the guise of humor. Having come up in the 1960s, I strongly support peaceful political protest. However, the implicit acceptance of violent protest crosses a line that I believe is both reprehensible and blatantly un-American.
At the Women’s March on Washington the day following the inauguration, uber-celebrity Madonna boldly proclaimed her dream of “blowing up the White House.” Two weeks following that announcement, which attracted global headlines and an unprecedented number of death threats aimed at the new president, the $180 million private technology company Dataminr Inc., reported that more than 12,000 posts with the words “assassinate Trump” had appeared on Twitter.
More recently, comedienne Kathy Griffin’s posing before camera holding a blood-soaked replica of a severed head of Donald Trump brought public advocacy of political violence to an unprecedented new low.
The epitome of this irresponsible madness is embodied in the current New York City public theater production of “Julius Caesar” – in which the blond haired Caesar/Trump is brutally murdered by an assembly of “Roman Senators” composed of women and minorities. Having lived and worked in New York and other major cities including Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles, I am profoundly aware of the hordes of violence- prone individuals roaming our streets. The upshot – all it takes is for one unbalanced person to pull the trigger and add our current president to his four predecessors who were slain in office. Is this really what we want?
Our nation stood in shock and disbelief at the gruesome shooting by a crazed anti-Trump protestor who purposely targeted Republican participants at a baseball practice, of all places. Ironically, this horrific event, which left GOP Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise gravely wounded, is serving as a massive wake-up call to Americans of all political stripes to put an end to the escalating wave of political violence.
News accounts following the shooting cited pleas from numerous political leaders for an end to the violence. Here in Arizona, Rep. Martha Mc Sally called for a toning down of strident political rhetoric, citing her purportedly civil working relationship with Rep. Raul Grijalva. Both Gabrielle Giffords and Ron Barber, former members of Congress, recounted painful flash-backs as a horrific sense of déjà vu back to the January 8, 2011, shooting of Giffords, which claimed the lives of six innocent Arizonans. And let’s not overlook Senator Jeff Flake, a member of the GOP team present at the pre-game practice and a good friend of Giffords. Without hesitation, Flake heroically stepped forward to apply life-saving first aid to the wounded Scalise.
I wholeheartedly applaud the annual congressional baseball game as a century-old bipartisan ritual in which pols from both sides enjoy a refreshing respite from the vitriol on Capitol Hill. In the spirit of “lightening up” the inter-party tension in both houses of Congress, I would love to see the annual game expanded into a three-game series with individual games spaced throughout the period in which Congress is in session.
Concerning the outcome of this year’s game, the Dems won fair and square 11-2, with no Electoral College interference (smile). In a final flourish of bipartisan camaraderie, the Democratic team’s manager, U.S Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, accepted the trophy, then gave it to his GOP counterpart Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, to put in Scalise’s office on behalf of the Democrats. Ahhh – if only this camaraderie would carry over onto the floor!
— John Newport is based in Tucson and is author of “The Tucson Tragedy: Lessons from Senseless Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.”
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.